Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Many Mansions 3: The Modified Temple


This particular temple variation is designed for one purpose: to fit into the already-existing buildings. The layout will not be altered in more than the most trivial ways. So moving staircases is out; hanging something new in place of the veil is a possible.

Equally, I won't be mentioning any higher technology than is already available – specifically, projectors, full-room audio, and automatic pausing until a button is pressed.

For similar reasons of shall we say plausibility, I will be attempting to fit this new temple ceremony within the pseudo-doctrinal boundaries of the current one. I will not be discussing anything prior to stepping out of the changing room, and will fit in as many of the things people think are essential as possible, regardless of my thoughts on the eternal nature thereof.

A Caveat

In my view, the temple ceremony should be a way to grow closer to and develop a personal relationship with God, as well as being about making covenants on your own or someone else's behalf. To that end, I envisage your own endowment being a solo affair – one of the endowment rooms in the temple will be set aside for this purpose. Similarly, it will be standard practice (but not obligatory) for a couple to go through a ceremony just for the two of them immediately prior to their sealing. In all other circumstances, you will go through as a group.

To this end, the primary description will be for your personal ceremony. Unless otherwise stated, you will be alone (with, presumably, one witness of the same gender as you). Also unless otherwise stated, the group ceremony will be identical to this, except that you are one of a congregation.

1. The New Name

Using the same small booths as currently used for the purpose, you are given a New Name when you enter the temple. This is not randomly assigned – rather, along with your recommend, your bishop will suggest half a dozen potential names, with reasons, and of course after prayerful deliberation. The reasons may relate to your personality, your life, or attributes they foresee you someday gaining. The worker giving you the name will prayerfully read over the list (not knowing you!) and be guided by the Holy Ghost in which to give.

You will be given not just the name, but also the reason, and you will be told that "when this name fully becomes your own, you will be as a new creation" (or words to that effect).

This will in fact be referenced later in the ceremony, but also in the sealing. Immediately after their sealing, a couple will visit the Celestial Room and exchange names (as part of the ceremony). As part of this, they will promise to help each other "become [name] in truth, and a new creation".

In a group endowment, you will be given a name assigned solely by the worker, probably from a daily shortlist, again decided through prayer. The reason will still be given, but in this case will come attached to the name.

2. The Chapel

Once everyone is in the chapel (even if that's just you), the officiator will lead the group in a prayer, wherein they will ask for a blessing on a box of temple names. Explaining this prayer, they will state that "you are here to do as you will in the Celestial Kingdom – to worship God, to experience bliss, and to labour for your fellow beings." The prayer contains all three.

Once the prayer is complete, you proceed to the endowment room.

3. The Room

The endowment room set aside for individuals will be divided halfway between the back and the front with a curtain or hanging. This is to shrink the room, making the emptiness less apparent. Inside, you sit and are presented with a video, much as in the current ceremony. At various points you will be asked to make covenants (and perhaps to learn signs and so forth, if this is considered essential).

The video as presented herein is an exceptionally rough draft. It is corny and awkward – but still, I think, more suited to my purposes than the current one.

4. The Garden

The video begins in blackness. The first thing you hear is Adam's voice, saying, "Let your name be Eve, because you are the mother of all living." Then we hear Eve's reply, naming Adam in turn. There is no Biblical reason given for the name (it simply means 'Man' in Hebrew) but I'm certain one could be crafted.

The light on the video comes up, revealing a shot of the Garden of Eden. We pan slowly across the Garden, until we come to the Trees, growing side by side. We stop and zoom slowly in on the Tree of Knowledge – and then something stirs the branches, and we hear a hissing sound, and cut to black.

Note that during the previous sequence we never see Adam or Eve. This is both to avoid the ridiculousness of "I am carrying this lamb for modesty!", and to give a sense of the ethereal to the whole thing – after all, this earthly paradise is something we cannot regain.

Eve: Father comes... he will see our nakedness.
Adam: Quick! Take these leaves...

Fade back in as if a forest by night is being lit up by a descending light (which is pretty much what is happening). We see Adam and Eve for the first time, but we never lay eyes on Heavenly Father – he is the source of the light, but stays offscreen. This sequence takes place in front of the Trees – but the Tree of Knowledge is now dead, with a single, half-eaten fruit lying on the ground beside it.

The Biblical account is run through, but with added dialogue: Adam explains that he partook of the fruit to remain with Eve and fulfil the command to be fruitful and multiply, and Eve explains that she partook to gain understanding and become more like her parents.

Father calls upon Satan, but again we never see him – or hear him. Rather, we see the effects of his presence – when he is called upon, the sky darkens, the wind picks up, etcetera.

Essentially this is a recap of the Garden section of the current video, in a compacted form. As at present, there is a covenant of obedience at this juncture (after Satan is condemned and sent away); however, it is somewhat different to ours. Both Adam and Eve are commanded to obey God, and also to 'become one'. This is simultaneously a reference to being a Zion people, a commandment to marry and be faithful – and an indication that their two modes of thinking, as explained in their excuses (Adam wanted to obey, Eve wanted to understand – the heart and the head) should be united, not working at odds.

5. The Wilderness

Adam and Eve are cast from the Garden into the wilderness. We fade out, and next see them struggling through the middle of what is practically a monsoon – with the same visual effects as the presence of Satan earlier. After a few moments of this (with perhaps dialogue), one of them shouts that they can't do this alone. The other replies that they were cast out – there is no one else.

"No," says the first. "Our Father will listen if we call on him. He loves us."

In the midst of the gale they kneel in prayer. We do not hear Heavenly Father reply – and the gale does not actually lessen – but the lighting and sound effects are subtly shifted to make it seem less like Satan's malevolence, and more like a simple storm. When the pair stand up, they seem more sure of themselves, and their footing.

Eve: "There's a cave-"

Adam: "-in that forest. Come on."

He takes her hand and they walk through the storm together.

Adam: "When we arrive, we should offer thanks."

Eve: "Yes. We have a lot to be thankful for."

The video keeps running in silence as they walk away, and the covenant of sacrifice is administered. Once the covenant is finished, you are asked to bow your head (or kneel?) and say a silent prayer of your own for guidance in the lone and dreary world.

When you have finished, the video fades to the same location (and angle) but in daytime. A man in Middle-Eastern robes walks along a road, at an angle away from you, and passes out of sight. Fade to:

6. Galilee

We see Jesus (the man from the road) coming up to the banks of the River Jordan, with John the Baptist already in the water. Essentially, we then watch a video of the baptism of Jesus, as presented in the Bible.

The covenant of the gospel is administered here. The wording may need modification, but the context may do the job for it: this is now a covenant to live up to your baptismal covenant, and to Christ's example.

There follows a brief video of Christ's mission, focussing on the service he did – in particular the non-miraculous service, the things we can emulate. The selection for this is beyond me, I'm afraid, but it should lead neatly into the covenant of charity – of service.

Then we see what may be called the endurance of Christ. Starting with the end of John 6 (when Jesus' followers abandon him, he asks the Apostles "Will ye also go away?", and we hear Peter's heartbreakingly beautiful reply – "Lord, to whom shall we go?" - followed immediately by the revelation that Christ knows about Judas), we pass through various tribulations – mostly from the Passion – and end on Gethsemane and the arrival of the arresting party. Fade to black.

Now the covenant of consecration is administered, but reworded to indicate that we should give everything – even, if necessary, our very lives, but also everything else – to the doing of Christ's work on the Earth. Tying this to a specific church is not necessary, and basically makes people lazy – the current covenant strongly implies "Pay your tithing, magnify your calling, and the Church will take care of all those dirty poor people". That isn't the implication we should be going for – Christ's message is one of personal service and labour, not simply or primarily institutional.

We fade in again on the sun rising behind an empty cross, and then cut to the Tomb of Christ. From this point we watch an adaptation of his first appearance after the Resurrection, and when Mary has left, he speaks to camera:

Jesus: Now is all made clean in me, a new creation, and through me and my eternal sacrifice death shall have no power over you. Only do as I did, be as I was, and become who you are meant to be."

... or words to that effect.

7. The Veil

In keeping with my stated mission at the beginning, I won't try to rework the veil ceremony. It depends too strongly on what is and is not considered essential.

The one positive change I would make is to have you reaffirm your covenants at the veil – but this may be too uncomfortable, as well as smacking of blasphemy (since you're covenanting with Heavenly Father while someone represents him behind the veil), so it might need to be dropped. Beyond the veil, you enter the Celestial Room – and the only change I would make here is to specifically encourage whispered group (or specifically couple) prayers. The Celestial Kingdom is a place of worship and labour, after all – not just of bliss.

8. The Symbolism

The overall message of this revised ceremony is the same as the current one – it shows a path through life, teaching you why you should follow the path, and where you are ultimately heading. It runs through innocence (Eden), sin and its consequences (the Fall), the search for God (the storm), accepting the gospel (the baptism), service (Christ's mission) and enduring to the end (the suffering), only to end where it began – reconciled with God, doing as he would do, and striving to become as he is.

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